In the midst of debt ceiling negotiations, the administration has hinted that it would consider raising the eligibility age under Medicare from 65 to 67. The proposal, originally floated by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), would increase out-of-pocket costs by $5.6 billion for seniors who would have been covered otherwise. In response to such ideas, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) offered a simple adage: Practice what you preach.
Today, Brown introduced an amendment that would make the Social Security retirement age the age at which members of Congress could collect their own retirement benefits. Under current law, lawmakers can collect the federal pension benefits at 50, depending on how long they’ve served. Brown told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent that “people who cavalierly say we can raise the retirement age” don’t know people “who are doing physical work.” As for the Medicare age proposal, Brown called it flat out “wrong“:
Brown is hoping that the very fact that it’s a long shot will force some members of Congress — and the President — to rethink the notion that it’s acceptable to raise the retirement age on hard working Americans.[…]
Asked to respond to Obama’s reported willingness to raise the Medicare eligibility age, Brown cautioned that we don’t know details but said he would oppose it if the reports were true.
“He’s wrong,” Brown said of the President’s reported flirtation wih the idea. “Elected officials don’t know enough people who work outside in winter and work in construction and in retail and diners. Members of Congress work into their 70s — it’s not hard for us.”
This type of proposal is Brown’s modus operandi, having refused to take health care benefits until a health care reform law was passed. In a statement to ThinkProgress, Brown said, “Raising the Social Security retirement age might sound fair to politicians who come to work every day in a suit and tie, but it’s a nonstarter for working Ohioans who stand on their feet all day long in a restaurant or on a factory floor. It’s time for Washington politicians to make the same sacrifices that they’re proposing for millions of Americans.”
This common sense approach even earned the endorsement of the conservative advocacy group National Taxpayers Union. Noting that Congress’ retirement system is “the most generous offered at any level of government,” NTU said that Brown’s change, “while seemingly small, would actually make a great deal of progress toward the more equitable outcomes taxpayers seek.”